Shenaz Treasurywala, while enjoying her successful stint as a ‘Travel Vlogger’, has now managed to make it big in the world of entertainment. ‘Brown Nation‘, her comedy show, has been picked up by Netflix. The first ever all Indian show with an all Indian cast that is seeing an arrival in 190 countries where Netflix plays, Brown Nation is a comedy about an Indian family living in New York. In the show, Shenaz plays a struggling actress named Dimple who leaves India and comes to America to be married to an Indian guy who is the biggest loser. While she had carried a dream to live in New York after marriage, she ends up living in the suburbs in New Jersey.
We get chatting with Shenaz.
From being a TV host to an actress to a writer to a travel vlogger and now a permanent face in a major series at Netflix, it seems to be one roller coaster ride for you, right Shenaz?
I keep sane by focusing on Travel Vlogging between my acting gigs. I enjoy this. It started out as a hobby as I love shooting and traveling but it’s actually picked up and now I get paid by hotels and lifestyle brands to cover them.
As for acting, I have been on big projects but the thing with acting is you go from one gig to the next. Shows get canceled. Movies sometimes don’t make it to the cinema. It’s a life of ups and downs when you’re an actor.
So yes, I’ve had very high highs and very low lows.
While all this was happening well for you, you also managed to bag Brown Nation. It must have been one journey to reach mainstream online streaming medium. So how did it actually happen?
Like all my jobs, this one was destiny too. I didn’t get it through my agent, just like I didn’t get the comedy central show through my agent.
My life has always been right place right time. I went to a birthday party in Brooklyn, happened to meet one of the writers of the show there. The next day he ran into me in the street around union sq. I was going to NYC screenplay writing at the time, he had graduated from there. We talked about that. And then he called me and asked me to do the pilot for the show. That was about four years ago.
Things take time in this business. That’s something I have to keep reminding myself. Great scripts sometimes take years to get made. It’s a hard business.
I did the pilot and forgot about it.
3 years later he called and said they were picked up and we need to shoot 10 episodes ASAP. I was in India then, they flew me to New York and we shot all 10 episodes at one go like a movie. Even then I had no idea it was going to be picked up by Netflix. This year on my birthday, the producer messaged me with the news that Newtflix picked it up.
In the series, you are playing an Indian who finds herself married in the US but dreams of being an actress. In some ways, this could also be replicating your real life scenario, right?
Well not really! (Smiles) I’m not married. And I don’t dream of being an actress, I already am and have been a working actress for more than a decade now.
I came to America not to get married but on vacation. This was 5 years ago and I asked an agent to send me on an audition. He sent me on one for “one life to live.’ After 5 rounds of auditions and 3 months later, I got the role, and I stayed.
On the other hand, Dimple comes to America as a married woman. Suffocated by household chores, she dreams of doing something more glamorous. She feels stifled at home. She has hopes of a more glamorous life. So yeah, different stories!
While you are playing a housewife in the series, it is also shown that you are an aspiring actress. So how much of Bollywood-isque notion captured in this aspect of your characterization?
Dimple wants to do something with her life other than being a housewife, she feel stuck at home. She wants to be an actress and is trying her luck in America. She’s not very good but she tries, very influenced by Bollywood. But that doesn’t work in Hollywood. She keeps getting rejected.
Moreover, as someone who has loved music and dance over the years, Brown Nation must be largely appealing and a wish indeed being fulfilled for you, right?
It’s an immigrant story. What happens when a girl gets married to someone in America. Is her life all glamorous? It’s a comedy take on that. It’s appealing to me in that. I like immigrant stories. I’ve lived in many places all over the world. I’m an immigrant.
There is a loneliness to being an immigrant, a foreigner in a completely different country far away from everything that’s home. You tend to treasure your Indian-ness more. You tend to romanticize about your country. That’s what appealed to me about this story.
And the fact that it was all that, but in comedy form.
Since Netflix is bringing this series worldwide, you must be supremely excited to see a global launch for yourself?
Maybe it’s a self-protection defense technique and a way of coping with the ups and downs of this business, I keep it neutral. I do my best to be happy and excited all the time whether there is a show on Netflix or not. That’s a survival technique advice I have for actors.